S P Balasubrahmanyam’s earthy voice in Ilaya Nila, from Payanangal Mudivadhillai has given countless music lovers company over long drives, at traffic lights and on lonely nights. The beginning strains of that song, which has won him some of his biggest fans, are enough to send most fans into musical limbo – where the only thing that exists his voice.
Well, musical limbo was what Chennai’s fans experienced during his first unplugged concert over the weekend. With a packed Music Academy and one spotlight, SPB weaved his magic over and over again with a selection of some of his best songs, much to the delight of his fans.
Organised by the Rotary Club of Madras South to confer a Lifetime Achievement Award on the veteran singer, the evening began with strains of his Vaa Nila Nila from Pattina Pravesam. Pianist Anil Srinivasan accompanied him on the piano and the song wound down, they gave the audience something to laugh about with little anecdotes and musical exchanges between the two.
The evening smoothly segued into SPB’s hits like Naan Pesa Vandhen from Paalooti Valartha Kili and En Kadhal Kanmani from Manjal Kungumam. The audience, mostly above the age of 35 but with a good mix of foreigners scattered here and there, lapped up whatever he sang.
It was a quiet sort of excitement with the crowd. There was no screaming, no shouting – except for the odd whistle or two – but a very dignified sort of clapping that conveyed their love of SPB’s singing prowess more than any loud cheering could.
The evening also had two spectacular unplugged segments – one celebrating the singer’ ‘Nila’ moments with songs like Nilavu Thoongum Neram and Nilave Vaa among others.
By this time some of his more popular (and comparatively recent) numbers like Malare Mounama and Minnale Nee Vandhadhenadi had been rolled out and the audience’s appetites was whetted enough to want more. The evening wound down with the second unplugged secgment – a medley of some of his greatest hits like Kamban Emanthaan and Tere Mere Beech Mein.